Summer Ventures participants immerse in hands-on research

Girl standing in hole with other researchers standing around

Ishwa Dave standing in a hole she dug at the field work site where campers searched for prehistoric sites. (Contributed photos)

For three weeks in the summer, high school students experience life on a college campus while participating in university-level science or math courses during the Summer Ventures program.

ECU is one of four participating universities in North Carolina to host Summer Ventures since 1984 for academically-motivated high schoolers. This year’s courses included DNA fingerprinting, neuroscience, physics, archaeological field methods and global environmental monitoring.

Students who participated in Dr. Charles Ewen’s archaeology course got their hands dirty over the course of three weeks. This summer, students surveyed property south of Greenville for prehistoric sites and recorded data from headstones in nearby cemeteries.

“I truly enjoyed this as it felt for the cemetery I was doing something important as I don’t think people realize how complicated cemetery preservation is and how we don’t really have many records on the actual people buried there,” said Ishwa Dave, a Summer Ventures participant and senior at Southwest Guilford High School in High Point.

The work that students participated in will have a real impact on current archaeological projects and add to the current research being conducted at ECU. In addition to the hands-on experiences, students chose an archaeological topic to conduct research and write a paper on to present.

“One of the most interesting things that I have learned during my time in the archaeological field methods course is the application of Augmented Reality (AR) technology in museums and historic sites across the world,” said Benjamin Lee, a participant and junior at Riverside High School in Durham. “This is the topic that I ended up selecting for my research paper, and the amount of prior work that has already been done in implementing this technology in modern museums simply astounded me. I had been completely unaware of this ‘silent revolution’ that had been gradually occurring for the past decade or so.”

Two students in a canoe

Dr. Dickerson took Summer Ventures students canoeing as part of their hands-on experiences.

For students who were interested in geoscience research, Dr. Dan Dickerson’s Global Environmental Monitoring: Technologies and Applications course was eye-opening. During the three weeks, students led research studies, learned field monitoring methods, wrote research papers for publication and presented their research.

Tess Johnson and Eric Teabo, two current ECU students, served as teaching assistants (TAs) for the course.

“As TAs, we were interested in gaining experience working with STEM education and helping motivated high school students interested in scientific research,” Johnson and Teabo said.

Even if these students do not pursue an environmental science career, the ability to publish research and the scientific processes they learned will be invaluable in other fields.

“We hope the students will have had a positive experience with scientific research, produce a research paper that has the potential to be published, present their findings at a conference, to have gained meaningful and valuable networking connections with a variety of professionals and have fun!” Teabo and Johnson said.